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"I Want You to Take My Funeral Portrait"

Posted by
Mike Cash (Kiryu, Japan) on 31 December 2010 in People & Portrait and Portfolio.

At our annual photo exhibition earlier this month one of the members, the gentleman in the photo, said to me, "I want you to take my funeral portrait." In Japan it is the custom at funerals to have a good-sized portrait of the deceased at the ceremony and for it to be carried along in the procession by a close family member. Afterward, a smaller print may be placed in the 仏壇 (butsudan), a Buddhist altar kept in the home and at which incense in burned, food/drink offerings are placed, and prayers offered up for the deceased of the family.

What frequently happens is that families get caught unprepared and upon the death of a loved one have to rush around trying to find a photo that can be sent out for a rapid run through photoshop and printing. Some few, though, apparently have the foresight to have their photo taken for just this purpose every few years. This man is 79 years old and I guess he figured it was about time to have a fresh one done. So the next day I brought my camera and simple lighting gear along to take a portrait for the specific purpose of being brought out when he dies. It's very sobering being asked to take such a portrait knowing full-well its intended purpose....looking through the viewfinder knowing you're taking what is meant to be the last expression he will be known and remembered by.

Pentax K20D
S-M-C Takumar 35/2